Abstract: Comparison of Water Disinfection Technologies

Disinfection is used to control the spread of communicable water-borne diseases by killing pathogenic microorganisms found in drinking water. Microbial pathogens of concern include bacteria, viruses and cysts of protozoans. Coagulation-sedimentation-filtration process may remove microorganisms from water but this is not its primary objective. Various chemical and physical agents or processes may accomplish the goal of disinfection. The criteria for an ideal potable water disinfection technology include (a) inactivates all potential pathogens in the water; (b)does not generate toxic chemical reactions and by-products to the water, (c) provides lasting residual disinfection effects without excess chemicals; (d) is safe, easy, and reasonably affordable to use; and (e) complies with government regulations. Chlorination is the most widely used disinfectant for water supplies because it is cheap, readily available, and affords residual effect down to the consumer’s taps. Because of chlorine’s inherent toxicity, large gaseous chlorination systems pose a health risk to facility operators and a potential risk to water treatment plant operators and the public. Hypochlorite in natural waters may generate toxic trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids which are a threat to public health. The following are alternative technologies to gaseous chlorine as a means of reducing risk to the environment, workers and the public: (a) chloramination, (b) chlorine dioxide, (c)mixed-oxidant generation, (d) ozone, and (e) ultraviolet light. There are emerging technologies for water treatment which include Pulsed Arc Electrohydraulic Discharge and Ultrasound. Chlorine dioxide (ClO2) is a synthetic, green-yellowish gas with a chlorine-like, irritating odor. It is an unstable gas, hence it is generated on site. It is a more efficient disinfectant than chlorine gas and reduces the production of THM by-products by oxidizing THM precursors. It may, however, generate chlorite and chlorate disinfection by-products. Capital and operating costs are substantially higher than chlorine gas systems. Ozone, which is a very powerful oxidant, is always generated onsite. It is extremely unstable and cannot be stored for any length of time. It disinfects much faster than chlorine by oxidizing and rupturing microbial cell walls called cell lysing. Ozone generators can be scaled to treat a wide range of water flow rates.Ozone does not generate harmful disinfection products, nor does it have lasting residual effect in water supply. Ozonation has comparatively higher capital cost but lower operating costs. In an ultraviolet radiation system, the UV lamp emits energy at germicidal wavelength that can destroy or modify the DNA of exposed pathogens to cease their reproduction. Like ozone, UV radiation does not generate disinfection by-products and disinfecting residual chemicals. Thus, its use may further warrant the use of chlorine to comply with the minimum standard of residual chlorine per the Philippine National Standard for Drinking Water. Capital and operating costs are relatively higher.

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